December 2019 Population Health Focus: Palliative Care and Caregiver Issues
UPMC Western Maryland is pleased to welcome palliative care physician Benjamin Goldstein, M.D., who has been practicing since mid-August out of suite 300 in the Medical Arts Center. Originally from Potomac, Md., Dr. Goldstein received his training in New York.
“At my interview, I got a great sense of this institution and how wonderful it is,” he said. “It’s a very supportive, robust and successful hospital. It was clear this was a wonderful opportunity to get a palliative care program up and running.”
Palliative care is specialized care provided for someone with a serious life-limiting illness at any stage—not necessarily just at the end of life. It provides patients time to get a good idea of the process of the disease they have.
“A lot of what I do is educate patients about their disease and answer any questions and provide guidance for the complex decisions they have to make,” Dr. Goldstein said. Some of those decisions include advanced care planning, like naming a healthcare proxy to make decisions in case the patient is not able to communicate, as well as their wishes when it comes to resuscitation instructions.
A big part of palliative care is the ability to spend an extended amount of time with a patient and their family. “As I went through my training, I noticed that physicians, to no fault of their own due to the multitude of their clinical and non-clinical responsibilities, may not have been successful in fully communicating with families regarding their disease process to a level that patients and their families understand,” Dr. Goldstein said.
Those discussions can be emotional and complicated depending on what the patient is facing. “You have to talk to someone objectively, and knowing that I am providing this service means a lot to me,” Dr. Goldstein said. “I know that if I wasn’t doing this, a patient might not fully understand the answers they need or know things such as how much time they might have left or what is going to happen in their decision-making process if they lose consciousness. Although there are definitely difficult moments, knowing that I am helping these patients have a voice and make decisions helps get me through it with them.”
In addition to discussions and spending time making decisions, Dr. Goldstein also helps with symptom management and works along with curative treatment for patients with diseases like cancer and heart-failure.
“This service is very beneficial for everyone, including providers who could use the time saved from this service to allocate towards their other numerous clinical responsibilities,” he said. “I have the time to sit with a patient and speak with them about everything. I know how busy physicians are, and I am happy to be here to serve in this role.”
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Dr. Goldstein’s office at 240-964-8939.